Research trends in pharmacological modulation of tumor-associated macrophages

Clin Transl Med. 2021 Jan;11(1):e288. doi: 10.1002/ctm2.288.


As one of the most abundant immune cell populations in the tumor microenvironment (TME), tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) play important roles in multiple solid malignancies, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colorectal cancer. TAMs could contribute to carcinogenesis, neoangiogenesis, immune-suppressive TME remodeling, cancer chemoresistance, recurrence, and metastasis. Therefore, reprogramming of the immune-suppressive TAMs by pharmacological approaches has attracted considerable research attention in recent years. In this review, the promising pharmaceutical targets, as well as the existing modulatory strategies of TAMs were summarized. The chemokine-chemokine receptor signaling, tyrosine kinase receptor signaling, metabolic signaling, and exosomal signaling have been highlighted in determining the biological functions of TAMs. Besides, both preclinical research and clinical trials have suggested the chemokine-chemokine receptor blockers, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, bisphosphonates, as well as the exosomal or nanoparticle-based targeting delivery systems as the promising pharmacological approaches for TAMs deletion or reprogramming. Lastly, the combined therapies of TAMs-targeting strategies with traditional treatments or immunotherapies as well as the exosome-like nanovesicles for cancer therapy are prospected.

Keywords: chemokine-chemokine receptor; exosomeimmune suppression; metabolism; tumor-associated macrophages; tyrosine kinase receptor.

Publication types

  • Review

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